Now that all the governors have settled in their respective states, including President Muhammadu Buhari at the national level, it is appropriate to look at their respective manifestoes, to see how realistic and workable they are, in terms of bringing dividends of democracy to the citizenry. In Delta State, His Excellency, Sen. (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, has encapsulated his blueprint for the State in a five-point agenda, with the acronym SMART.
Those of us involved in international capacity building are not unfamiliar with the initials SMART, especially in corporate training and agenda setting for life coaching clients. “SMART is a best practice framework for setting goals. A SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. “ See http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/SMART-SMART-goals (retrieved 2015-06-07). It is often used for performance reviews and clarifies exactly what will be required for achieving success. There is, of course, a newer one called SMARTER, but we will leave that for another day, hopefully during Okowa’s second tenure. So, SMART usually means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. It is appropriate to use the smart criteria to evaluate Okowa’s SMART agenda. Okowa’s blueprint encapsulated as SMART means: (1) Strategic Wealth Creation Projects and Provision of Jobs for all Deltans; (2) Meaningful Peace Building Platforms aimed at Political and Social Harmony; (3) Agricultural Reforms and Accelerated Industrialisation; (4) Relevant Health and Education Policies; (5) Transformed Environment through Urban Renewal.
Using criterion one (Specific), one my at the first glance say the SMART agenda is not specific. However, it is simple and very specific in its elucidation. Maybe its phraseology may confuse those not so educated, but when you break it down you will see that is specific. In his inauguration speech on May 29, Governor Okowa simplified it. “Essentially, S.M.A.R.T is a programme designed to create jobs, generate and sustain businesses, and stabilise families and communities within a framework of equity, fairness, and justice.”
Criterion two has to do with measurability. Can we measure the SMART agenda? Clearly! If the lot of Deltans does not reasonably improve, then the SMART agenda would have failed. Deltans are patient, but need to know that those entrusted to represent them will deliver. As evident by Okowa’s massive and landslide victory at the April 11 governorship polls, Deltans believe in him and will give him a reasonable time to measure his progress. At the polls, he was weighed in the scales and he measured up, while his opponents were found wanting. However, Governor Okowa realizes that Nigerians, and Deltans in particular, are watching. “The vital lesson to be learnt from the last general elections is that the electorate has become more politically aware and we must conduct government business with the realisation that the day of reckoning will come sooner than later.”
Criterion three has to do with achievability. Is the SMART agenda achievable. Political Science students will tell you that democracy is defined as government of the people, for the people and by the people. The achievability of the SMART agenda depends, not just on Governor Okowa, but on individual Deltans as well. I cannot help but quote the governor again when he stated, “Building our state, a new Delta is not about Dr Okowa, but about ourselves, a people committed to doing what is right. I am ready to lead as your Governor, but Deltans must be willing to commit themselves to the new order, an era of love for all, where the good of all takes precedence over the gain of one.” It is my honest postulation that Okowa SMART agenda is achievable, but all Deltan must get on board.
On Criterion four, the SMART agenda is realistic. In the Governor’s own words, “I also acknowledge the challenges that confront us, not least of which are the genuine and lofty expectations of our people amid the prevailing economic predicament.” Our amiable governor knows our expectations as Deltans and understands that we are not looking for “white elephant” projects, but realistic plans to better the life of all Deltans.
The fifth and final criterion is time bound. There must be a time frame to evaluate any plan or agenda. For Governor Okowa, we have given him a renewable four-year mandate. In his own words, “As a Government we have a clear vision of what we plan to do in the next four years … In the days, months, and years ahead, we should be ready to make hard choices and take tough decisions that are imperative for the prosperity and welfare of our people. “ We, as individual Deltans, will periodically look at the Okowa administration at 100 days, yearly and specific time posts.
Every administration must have a plan. We generally say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Of course, the position of the Secretary to the Government (SSG) is critical to achievement of any government’s plan because the SSG is the engine room of the State. The resounding applause that greeted the swearing in of Rt. Hon. Festus Ovie Agas as the new SSG, has proven that Governor Okowa is already steering the ship in the right course. Nonetheless, his navigational abilities will still be watched by Deltans, especially those with concerns about the performance of the last administration. As the Captain of Delta State ship, Governor Okowa needs crew members, including First Mate, etc. He already has a capable Deputy Governor in the person of Barrister (Deacon) Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, SSG Agas, Chief Of Staff Hon. Tam Brisibe, and Senior Political Adviser Festus Ochonogor. However, Deltans are watching who else he selects to assist him in this great journey ahead because he cannot do it alone and cannot afford for the ship to sink.
Most Deltans are confident that Okowa will deliver on his five-point SMART agenda, especially based on his antecedents. While quoting Proverbs 24:10, the Governor admitted, “Indeed, times like these are often a good test of character and determination to succeed, for in the words of the Scripture, if you faint in the day of adversity then your strength is small.” We are filled with hope as Deltans who are realist optimists. We all look forward to a prosperous Delta for all Deltans believing that the S.M.A.R.T agenda is smart.
Rev. (Prof.) Atawa-Akpodiete, a public Affairs Analyst, writes from Asaba.